Using Paint on Polymer Clay

Posted on 16 Comments
Don't Be Afraid of What a Little Paint Can Do for Your Polymer Clay Designs by KatersAcres

Don’t Be Afraid of What a Little Paint Can Do

Paint Is “Cheating”?!

For years I refused to use any paint on my polymer clay work. Like many other artists, I considered using paint “cheating.” I had come to the conclusion (wrongly I might add) that no real artist would ever use acrylic paints on polymer clay … I mean after all the reason polymer clay is colored (and can be mixed to make your own colors) is because you’d never have to use paint. Right? WRONG.

Here’s a list of just some of the few awesome polymer artists that use paints as an enhancement on their colored polymer clay designs: Christi Friesen, Doreen Kassel, Debbie Crothers, Miranda Farrand, Swirly Designs, Robots Are Awesome & hundreds (no, I’m not exaggerating) of others.

Paint As An Enhancement

Don't Be Afraid of What a Little Paint Can Do for Your Polymer Clay Designs by KatersAcres

Yes, you can use acrylic & oil paints on polymer clay. But the question is: when, why, & how would you want to use it? Well the answer will vary to all kinds of clayers. Some clayers use it to add an antique effect to an item [get the free tutorial here], others use it to enhance a design by adding paint as a surface treatment, and yet others use paints to completely alter the entire look of the design.

I chose to show one of my favorite dragons, Bari, as a prime example of how paint can be used as an enhancement. You’ll see on the dragon at the left that there are NO paint details. At this point, my Chinese jointed dragon (get the tutorial here) is clay only. Is he cute this way? You bet! But could I add something to him to enhance the look I already gave him? In this case, I could do that very easily with acrylic paints.

[Click on the picture at left to see the details close up]

Do You Use Paint on Polymer Clay?

Share below: how do you use paints on polymer clay? What kind of paint do you use and how do you apply it?

Sculpting Blessings,


16 thoughts on “Using Paint on Polymer Clay

  1. I use paint… using just the me looks like the things I made in grade school using Play-Doh. It just looks childish. I like creating sculptures that look real, to get that effect, I use paint over white Polymer. The art is in the sculpt, not in color. I do use colored clay when blending and I want the marble effect, like when I create water for my sea turtle or dolphin…. There is no such thing as “cheating” when creating art, unless maybe you are copying the work of another artist, even then, you still show your talent.

  2. Hi Katie. I first saw you on B’sues Boutique. I had just discovered her youtube channel and I l
    fell i love with her great personality and as a bonus, i “met” you there. It was when I was first seeking out polymer clay tutorials. I learned some valuable tips and techniques from your times on her channel.
    I have been a two dimensional visual artist since I can remember, painting and illustrating. In 2008 or so, I added jewelry design to my creative repertoire. My shop us “A Bergie Creation” at Etsy. And just recently, thanks to all the wonderful online artist tutorials like your’s, polymer clay became my new favourite medium, next to my first fave, acrylic paint.

    Thank you for your enthusiasm and your truly colourful online presence, blogs and social media and such. You are a great encourager. I have always adored colour more than any other element of design.. I haven’t yet, but I hope to try some of your really great challenges soon. And Thanks for being on B’Sues!

    About paint and polymer clay…
    I recently wanted to experiment to try making coloured poly claya to save money. Since I have acrylics and some oils, I actually discovered that I could make some pretry good colours (not pure saturation) just by mixing in some craft acrylic into a white and translucent premo mix. Some colours or brands are too watery. But what did work, baked just fine. Chalk and oil pastel shaving s worked pretty well too. I will be doing a blog post about my creative experiment soon. (HeArtfully

    I totally can relate to your “cheating” concerns. Mixing colours yes, but Painting my pieces isnt something I’ve done so far. Heck, I still struggle with feeling like I am cheating when I listen to audio books while I create. Like it just doesn’t count as reading. :o)

    Thanks again!

  3. i used paint for an accent on my last polymer piece and I didn’t like it before I painted it

  4. Paint is the way of a mixed media artist and that means over polymer clay too. If someone wants to bang their head all day to add color to polymer clay by using only the product itself, well they surely may. I want to enjoy clay, make my beads and pendants attractive and be able to go on and finish my design. As an artist who would sells her work it makes sense to finish and keep the work looking good and practically priced too. I love Gilder’s paste, acrylics….you must have burnt umber!….and mica powders. I love inclusions too. I love the experimentation! Nothing wrong w learning how to do it from th ground up but people today need satisfying, fun techniques that are cost effective and can yield quickly. Just because it’s faster….doesn’t mean it’s not art and not legit! Thanks for writing about paint, Katie! I love ya and can’t wait to see you again!

    1. Thanks for stopping by B’Sue and sharing your thoughts. Hopefully I can visit after Christmas!

  5. I often use paint on my clay projects, then, again, I also have used permanent marker too when I’ve heard you ‘can’t use it’. I use paint on certain stamped lettering to make it show better. Next I’m going to experiment with crayons because they/their dye stick to anything, even skin. I can’t wait to see how that works. To me, saying you can’t use paint on clay is like saying you can’t use wire in beading because both of these are an art form in itself too. That’s what ‘mixed’ media is, combining two forms of art into one. Right?

  6. I love using paint as an accent as well as alcohol inks, rhinestones, sometimes a little sand, whatever it can find to enhance my art. It is my art and I can do what I want. If others don’t like to use it, that is their choice. You have to work your own magic as you see fit. I don’t let anyone tell me I can’t use something just because they don’t like it.

    1. Very well stated Cheryl! Thanks for chiming in.

  7. So I’m guessing those opposed to painting on PC would now consider Bari “mixed media”? I was recently thrown into that argument regarding alcohol inks. I had no idea I could even DO mixed media, lol.

    Personally, I see no reason why you can’t use whatever you want. It’s YOUR art. Period. If you can’t use paint, you can’t use glitter, mica powders, crystals or other beads. It’s ridiculous.

  8. I don’t see why there is a problem with using paint or whatever one can add to a project that would enhance it. Otherwise we are going to be limited in our art.

    1. Hi Jeanne! I agree 100% … but there was a time when I didn’t and there are many people who still disagree. Many people feel that to be “true polymer” it must be all polymer with no additives.

  9. I’ve always used it to get deep the rich colors of reality. I never knew it was cheating…. But I’ve always broken the rules. 🙂

    1. Hi Melody! I break the rules too … it’s part of being an artist.

  10. Eugene was the first time I painted on pc aside from antiquing stuff. It was fun, odd but fun. I did make him out of all white clay, because I knew I wanted his appendages to blend more to his doughy physic. I just used regular ol’ Folkart acrylic. I used a brush and fingers to apply. lol

    1. Thanks for sharing & participating in the challenge Andrea. As a general rule of thumb the “cheap” acrylic paints work better on polymer because they don’t “peel” like the expensive ones do. Save the money & purchase the inexpensive ones, just like Folkart! Good job Andrea. 🙂

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